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Unsettling Understandings of Maths Anxiety

A critical synthesis to inform policy and practice.

The British Academy has commissioned a research team to provide an up-to-date systematic review of research into the issue of maths anxiety, analyse its implications for policy and practice, and identify potential interventions and gaps in our knowledge. This special research project is part of the British Academy’s initiative to deepen awareness and demonstrate the importance of quantitative skills.

Situating the review

Despite the large amount of literature related to mathematics anxiety and the underlying concerns around numeracy and confidence with numbers, there has been to date a limited understanding of the evidence beyond the different research communities that dealt with the topic and its implications. Previous research also suggests that the focus on anxiety needs to be tempered by other closely related variables and constructs (such as dispositions, efficacy, and identity). To identify the implications for policy and practice, the phenomenon needs to be understood from the outset as both a psychological and a sociological, cultural phenomenon.

Report and outcomes

The final report is envisaged to cover particular sub-sections on pre-school, compulsory stages (primary and secondary) and post-compulsory education and life; parental anxiety, and teachers’ anxiety and their influences. The research team intend to make available the project outputs through open access (where possible) and in accessible formats such as searchable databases for both the literature and datasets. The project team places great emphasis on reaching as many beneficiaries as possible, from the outset, and in conducting a systematic review that is from the beginning conditioned by the focus on policy and practice; towards this end the team intend to work closely with various stakeholders to ensure that policy agendas are reflected in terms of a ‘what can work and why?’ for pedagogy and practice.

The research team

Maria Pampaka
Lecturer of Social Statistics and Education at the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE) and Social Statistics, University of Manchester

Julian Williams
Professor of Mathematics Education at MIE, University of Manchester

Jackie Carter
Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences, University of Manchester

Kevin Woods
Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of Initial Professional Training in Educational Psychology, at MIE, University of Manchester

Paul Hernandez-Martinez
Lecturer in Mathematics Education at the Mathematics Education Centre, Loughborough University

Kevin Ralston
Research Fellow at the National Centre of Research Methods at the University of Edinburgh

Kelly Pickard-Smith, David Swanson & Lawrence Wo
Research Associates at MIE, University of Manchester

To find out more about the project, visit the project website at www.mathsisok.com and follow the project on Twitter @mathsisok.

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Policy and research

The British Academy’s policy and research work is dedicated to applying that insight to policy issues for public benefit and societal wellbeing.